Leading change is fundamental to who we are as a part of creation – every day we awaken with new awareness, holding ourselves accountable for changing as we grow.

Refreshing Our Values, Mission, and Vision

We engaged in a deep process with all of our stakeholders to delve into who we are and what we want to be as we look to the future. As a part of this evolution, the URJ North American Board approved new values, mission, and vision statements.

All three new statements place a strong emphasis on peace, justice, equity, and belonging.

Gathering to Lead Change

One thousand participants across 300 congregations attended our Leading Change Summit, a three-day virtual gathering for Reform leaders to build skills, connect, and learn from experts about what our communities need.

a teen in front of a torah with two mentors

Training Teens to Lead

After almost three years of gathering remotely, NFTY hosted in-person regional events with hundreds gathering at each for weekends of fun, friendship, and learning led by teens. In the fall, the URJ hosted The Collab: The URJ Teen Leadership Collaborative at URJ Camp OSRUI, for the first ever teen-powered, community-driven training retreat for Reform teens. The retreat aimed to empower teens as they work to help build NFTY into an inclusive and sustainable movement.

A large gathering of smiling teens

Relaunching NFTY

NFTY was relaunched to reflect the values, interests, and aspirations of thousands of our teens. NFTY revealed its new website with an updated look and improved navigation to help visitors feel the power of the movement. The NFTY and teen leadership board recommitted to bringing teens into all working groups dealing with youth programming, increasing the NFTY Budget, and personally supporting NFTY and teen leadership across the URJ.

We know this is only a first step and that the plans for NFTY and teen leadership are still at early stages. You are the leaders in this work, and I have asked the board to practice a bit of tzimzum (contraction) and let you lead the way. Our own experiences from years past and our opinions about the directions NFTY might take should not shape this work. It is your voice and your leadership that will be creating a true youth movement that inspires teens for meaningful impact in their lives, in our broader Reform Jewish Movement, and indeed, in our world.
a group of smiling teens

Supporting NFTY Growth

In 2022, the URJ Board committed to implementing a new staffing and volunteer structure for the NFTY program, including: hiring four full-time North American staff members, bringing on part-time mentors for every region, hiring three part-time organizers to support teen leaders’ growth, implementing regional volunteer networks to support NFTY teens, and expanding NFTY’s fundraising and long-term development programs.

Creating Safe Spaces

The URJ is committed to ensuring that every member of our community is protected. In 2022, URJ leadership publicized the findings of an independent, comprehensive investigation completed by Debevoise & Plimpton. The URJ had engaged Debevoise & Plimpton to investigate reports of sexual abuse, harassment, and misconduct in URJ spaces.

The URJ immediately committed to implementing the recommendations in the report, believing that publicly releasing the results and implementing the recommendations would promote healing, safeguard all members of our communities, and cultivate environments that promote safety, equity, inclusiveness, and respect. The URJ’s efforts throughout 2022 were focused on creating a culture of accountability, safety, and protection in our spaces.

The URJ formed an Ethics Implementation Task Force to oversee the implementation of Debevoise’s recommendations by creating an Ethics Accountability Plan. The task force immediately established additional channels for reporting harassment, abuse, or misconduct, hiring an ombudsperson to address concerns related to reporting misconduct and abuse and file confidential reports.

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We immediately required all URJ staff to participate in safety, abuse prevention, and reporting training protocols. A volunteer and lay leader training team was established to plan similar training for those cohorts.

The URJ created an ethics accountability website with reporting links and updates about our work, programming, and events.

The URJ partnered with Dr. Guila Benchimol and Dr. Alissa R. Ackerman. They crafted a roadmap to recovery for the URJ to implement in 2023, based on the expressed needs of victims and survivors, including listening circles and restorative gatherings.

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The URJ published updated resources to help congregations create and adopt their own ethics codes.

The URJ is exploring collaboration with CCAR, ACC, HUC-JIR, and all Reform Movement partners to promote Movement-wide protocols that reflect our values and ensure safe, equitable, inclusive, and respectful environments.